Today we’re looking at the Supersonic USB 3.0 Flash Drive from Patriot Memory. Like the product itself, I wanted to make this review quick and efficient, but not lacking substance :)
As you can see, on the outside, it really is as simple as it gets. A flat black aluminum/plastic housing contains the drive, with the common “better keep an eye on that or it’ll go missing” plastic cap on the end. There is a diagnostic LED, but it does not engage when the device is being used. Whether you think it’s a good thing or bad, there are no flashy blue LEDs to light up your room here. Even though it doesn’t have fancy rubberized embellishments and paint job, it is quite durable with the ability to sustain shock forces up to 15G. Patriot offers a basic 5 year warranty on the SuperSonic.
Inside though, the Supersonic carries some weight. It is a four-channel device, with USB 3.0 support. Patriot claims “up to” 100 MB/s read, and “up to” 70 MB/s write, which we’ll put to the test right away. It is available in 32GB (PEF32GSUSB) and 64 GB (PEF64GSUSB) capacities.
And that’s all there is to it, really; a potentially fast flash drive without any bells or whistles. Small USB 3.0 Flash Drives are still relatively new however, so the price is up there. Expect to pay around $100 for the 32GB unit, and $200 for the 64GB. While this is roughly in line with what few competing drives there are, it is quite a bit more expensive than slower USB 2.0 drives with similar capacities.
Is that extra price worth the speed increase? Let’s find out right now!
For our USB Flash Drive tests, we’ll be using AS SSD Benchmark by Alex Intelligent Software. It serves our purposes perfectly well, with both a sequential read/write test to find peak speed, and file copy tests to find real world speed. Tests were performed on an Intel DH67BL motherboard with Core i5 2500K CPU. The USB 3.0 controller on that board is the standard RENESAS controller (formerly branded NEC) seen on pretty much every other motherboard. In our experience, the USB 3.0 speeds on the Intel boards are the fastest we’ve seen, so that should allow any tested device to work at full capacity.
Let’s start with a look at peak speeds:
As you can see, we also included results from a SATA > USB 3.0 adapter, to see how close it comes to an actual hard drive running on a USB 3.0 bus. And it comes really close! Patriot actually understated their speeds – we were able to get 122 MB/s read, and 78 MB/s write. Now that’s a new one!
You can also see how dreadfully slow USB 2.0 is… And it only gets worse with the real-world file copy tests:
AS SSD Benchmark includes several file copy test patterns. One is “ISO” mode, which simply copies a single file to the device. “Program” mode copies many smaller files. There is also “Game” mode, which is a combination of the two. We’re only going to look at ISO and Program here, which will show us the best and worst case scenario for copying actual files:
In the “best case scenario” where the device is copying one single large file, the Supersonic has no problem keeping up with the USB 3.0 hard drive. They both take roughly 23-24 seconds to complete the operation. Compare that to almost 3 minutes for the older 2-channel USB 2.0 drive included in this test!
Things don’t go so well in the “worst case scenario” test however, where many files are being read and written to the flash drive at once. In this case, the Supersonic chokes a bit, but is still considerably faster than it is in USB 2.0 mode.
So where does that leave us? If you are in the market for a new small USB flash drive, and have the money to burn, then a device like the Patriot Memory Supersonic is absolutely worth it. Especially if you are using it to copy large files like movies and ISO files, you can expect to shave minutes off your transfer times, not just seconds. And even in USB 2.0 mode, it is still quite a bit faster than older dual-channel USB 2.0 drives.
However, if you want to make full use of your shiny new USB 3.0 port, and don’t necessarily need the portability, a full size (or notebook size) external hard drive will be both cheaper and faster.
So it’s up to you – do you take the portability and convenience of a flash drive, or the budget and speed of an external hard drive? In any case, Patriot made a solid product here. With a minor exception of the warranty (other manufacturers offer a lifetime warranty on their USB flash drives), I can’t find much else to fault it with.